As Alfonso Cuaron’s mega-hit Gravity continues to rack up praise and big box office dollars, it’s a good time to take a critical look at the weakest aspect of the film, which is the lead acting performance of Sandra Bullock.
It’s widely known that Cuaron’s first choice, Angelina Jolie, fell through and there were reported meetings with Marion Cotillard, Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively, and Natalie Portman among other candidates, before Bullock was ultimately chosen.
These other contenders are clearly talented but they are still part of a group that could easily be called Hollywood Casting 101.
While the film’s financiers would disagree, Gravity is not a film that needed big stars, as the presence of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock is far less a contributor to its enormous success than the film’s suspense thriller concept and visually striking execution.
Obviously, a director on a big-budget film is going to be pressured to select a well-known actress, but since the focus of this article is the overall quality of Gravity, let’s take an alphabetical look at some less predictable, outside-the-box casting choices that would’ve made for a better film.
Ingrid Bolso Berdal
This Norwegian actress has appeared in the American films Chernobyl Diaries, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and is part of the cast of Brett Ratner’s upcoming Hercules.
Berdal is a talent who appears to be on the path to being fully embraced by the Hollywood system but has yet to be cast in the breakout role that will land her more high-profile roles in American studio films like her colleagues in the international acting community, Marion Cotillard, Diane Kruger, and Noomi Rapace.
For the performance that puts Berdal firmly on this contender list, seek out Mats Stenberg’sCold Prey 2, a horror sequel that easily surpasses the original and features outstanding intense acting by Berdal as the sole survivor of a massacre who winds up in the hospital that also houses the wounded killer.
German is an underutilized talent who can currently be seen as part of the ensemble cast of NBC’s Chicago Fire.
German delivers an outstanding performance in Eli Roth’s very uneven horror film Hostel: Part 2, is excellent in a recurring role in 15 episodes of CBS’s Hawaii Five-O reboot and shows impressive physical skills in the “Kill Bob” episode of Fox’s Human Target.
German has the ability to effectively convey highly convincing emotion, intensity and vulnerability, but has yet to be cast in a real breakout role.
You might look at this entry and ask “What makes you think an actress from a CW show could excel in a major film role?”
The answer is simple: Steven C. Miller’s Silent Night. Yes, the killer Santa Claus movie from 2012. In it, King plays a Midwestern police officer with a dark past and does an outstanding job in the role, exhibiting both vulnerability and toughness in a way this actress has not been given the opportunity to do very often in her career.
Don’t let King’s role in Hart of Dixie blind you to the fact that she has talent that far exceeds her currently most recognizable job.
Best known as a comedy actress and one half of the comic singing-songwriting duo Garfunkel & Oates with Kate Micucci, Riki Lindhome is not given enough credit or opportunity as a dramatic actress.
Witness her absolutely chameleon-like transformation into a lethal sociopath in Dennis Iliadis’ 2009 The Last House on the Left remake. Then watch the hilarious video for Garfunkel & Oates’ “This Party Took a Turn for the Douche” and try not to be stunned as you realize you are watching the same person.
A too little-utilized dramatic talent with intensity not even hinted at in her comedy work, just imagine Lindhome executing another remarkable transformation into the desperate astronaut in Gravity.
The charismatic and engaging Meyer may be primarily known for her television work, her roles in Starship Troopers and the Saw film series but she has the screen presence to make a real impact in a major part like the lead in Gravity.
An egregious misuse of Meyer is one painful facet of the incredibly excruciating viewing experience that is Alexandre Aja’s 2010 remake of Piranha, wherein Meyer’s diving expert character shows up and is quickly dispatched, resulting in a colossal and inexcusable waste of talent.
Deborah Kara Unger
Looking for the most underrated actress working in cinema today? Look no further than Deborah Kara Unger.
Very solid in films like Keys to Tulsa, The Salton Sea, White Noise, and 88 Minutes, Unger turns in an amazing performance as a military officer in Istvan Szabo’s epic family drama Sunshine.
Unger brings a very unique screen presence, quiet intensity, and deep commitment to every role she plays and would have knocked the lead in Gravity out of the park.
— Terek Puckett